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Football: Asian Cup, Group A – Australia rampant; Korea “lucky”

Australia scored four goals for the second game running. Photos: AFCAsianCup.com.

Australia scored four goals for the second game running. Photos: AFCAsianCup.com.

January 13, 2015: Hosts Australia and Korea Republic – two of Asia’s four 2014 World Cup representatives – secured their places in the quarter-finals of the AFC Asian Cup in starkly contrasting fashion.

 

Australia scored four goals for the second straight game as they beat Oman 4-0 at Stadium Australia on Tuesday, four days after kicking off the competition with a 4-1 thrashing of Kuwait in Melbourne. Earlier, an injury-ravaged Korea Republic edged Kuwait 1-0 in Canberra, three days after squeezing past Oman by the same scoreline.

 

Matt McKay, Robbie Kruse, Mark Milligan and Tomi Juric were all on target for the hosts in Sydney, leaving the Socceroos needing only a draw in their final Group A game against Korea Republic in Brisbane on Saturday to secure first place.

 

While Korea Republic coach Uli Stielike admitted his team were “very lucky” to beat Kuwait, Australia coach Ange Postecoglou emphasised that his team’s impressive opening victories were a reflection of the football being played by the Socceroos rather than the quality of the opponents.

 

“People might think these are easy games, but I don’t see them as easy games. The way we play makes it very hard for the opposition. We made it very hard for Oman.,” said Postecoglou, the former Brisbane Roar coach.

 

“Any time they had the ball, our defensive work was outstanding; any time we had the ball, we were able to move it around very quickly. I don’t think it’s a reflection on them as teams. Oman could very easily have scored and Kuwait pushed Korea.”

 

Tim Cahill, Australia’s record goalscorer, in action against Oman.

Tim Cahill, Australia’s record goalscorer, in action against Oman.

Postecoglou, 49, hailed his team for both their work rate and quality, describing the side’s football as “outstanding”.

 

“I’m very pleased,” he said. “I thought the players were fantastic. They worked really, really hard and were committed, but also the quality of the football was outstanding from the first minute against a tough opponent. We knew this was going to be a tough game for us. We took command fairly early and that’s a tribute to the players.”

 

Kruse, 26, was named the Samsung Man of the Match after an impressive performance by the Bayer Leverkusen winger, who claimed Australia’s second goal and delivered the corner that ultimately led to McKay scoring the 27th-minute opener.

 

“It was a fantastic performance,” Kruse said. “We did well from the first minute to the last. We played some great football and should have had some more goals. We came into the tournament from the first game wanting to qualify for the next round and we’ve done that. We’ll now try to top the group.”

 

Nam Tae-hee scored Korea Republic’s only goal against Kuwait.

Nam Tae-hee scored Korea Republic’s only goal against Kuwait.

Unlike Postecoglou, Stielike was downbeat about his side’s chances, after he had to leave seven of his starting line-up against Oman out of the squad that faced Kuwait due to injury and illness.

 

Korea Republic were unconvincing against Kuwait, but scored the only goal through Nam Tae-hee on 36 minutes. Kuwait came within inches of an equaliser early in the second half after a powerful shot from midfielder Ali Al Maqseed rattled the frame of the goal, but were unable to find a breakthrough.

 

Stielike was pessimistic about his side’s chances going forward, admitting his team were “no longer in the role of favourites” after he had to replace the majority of his first-choice line-up.

 

“With a performance like today, you cannot go far in this tournament,” the German said. “In a lot of phases in the game, Kuwait was the better team and I think the result is very, very lucky. I saw two good things today: one, we have six points after two games; the second is that we are no longer in the role of favourites.”

 

Defender Kim Chang-soo and midfielder Lee Chung-yong picked up injuries against Oman and three other key players – Son Heung-min, Koo Ja-cheol and Kim Jin-hyeon – came down with fever. Lee has been ruled out for the rest of tournament and will fly back to England on Wednesday to join his club, Bolton Wanderers.

 

“We had only 14 fit players today,” Stielike said. “Not only with our injuries but two days ago Son Heung-min developed a fever. Yesterday I thought he would be able to play the game, but this morning he stood up and we had to go to hospital with him

 

“Maybe tomorrow more players will be sick. If you have fevers in a group you don’t know who will be affected next. As a result, the line-up today was not I wanted. As you saw, there were a lot of problems with a new team trying to find themselves on the pitch. I did not expect we would have so many problems.

 

“Our main objective is now the recuperation of the players in these four days before the game against Australia. If we play the way we did today, we have no chance against Australia.”

 

Source: Michael Church / Daniel Pordes / AFC Asian Cup (www.afcasiancup.com); Editing by SportAsia

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